Holly Bird, Editorial Assistant of Together magazine
shares her thoughts on the
2018 Retailers & Suppliers Retreat.
Defining the Future - CRT Retreat 2018
Upon arrival we were greeted by Steve and Mandy Briars’ warm welcome. These are the instigators of Christian Resources Together, publishers of Together Magazine, and organisers of the retreat (fair to say they do their bit for the industry! Thank you both for all you do!). Satisfyingly weighed down by a bag of free goodies, we checked into our room. My wonderful husband/nanny Matt also accompanied us this year and drove us the full 3 hours himself, meaning that I had the energy to stay up for the entire feature film this time, kindly screened by Kingsway Trust! I Can Only Imagine was superb. I feel that the lady sitting next me who was discreetly wiping tears from her face would agree that it was a beautiful and poignant story of how the bestselling Christian single of all time, “I Can Only Imagine” was inspired. It was flippin’ funny as well! Kingsway had garnished the seats with popcorn and sweets as well as product information and informed us that there were some homemade rice krispie cakes at the back of the room. All very excellent. However, it wasn’t until we were leaving that a number of us noticed not just rice cakes, but large bowls of popcorn and other delicious and sugar-filled edibles that we’d not been noticed!
The theme for this year’s event was Defining the Future, a particularly relevant topic for our storm-weathering trade. To help us move into the future confidently, the optional seminar programme offered some valuable opportunities for learning and professional development. Mark Taylor, Chairman and CEO, of Tyndale House Publishers provided some enlightenment on the plethora of Bible translations that confuse not only our customers but us as well! Ian Matthews of David C Cook shared with us how bookshops can develop stronger working relationships with local churches, and Andy Heald of Yeomans talked us through the confusing ins and outs of GDPR. Business Consultant Colin Stephen’s talk on having a business strategy, provided us with a concept and template for improving our shops in specific ways, by first having a full understanding of the state of the business as a whole and then identifying and isolating areas for improvement.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sneak into one of the writers’ workshops this year (got to sit next to Catherine Campbell herself!). David Gatward, Managing Director of Kevin Mayhew and author of numerous fiction titles taught us that creative writing is actually an interactive process, and not just about trying to glean inspiration from a blank piece of paper. Who knew! I was introduced to story cubes, writing with music, and creating storylines and characters from random props or words.
Once again the food was top notch; the lamb rogan josh in particular hit the spot for me, though I was sorely disappointed to miss out on the profiteroles. I’ll be faster next time. I had to settle for - that's right - fruit. The centre staff were also consistently fabulous and always happy to help.
The Awards ceremony was a wonderful and hilarious occasion. Well done to everyone who won an award, you are all so deserving. It was incredibly inspiring to cheer on those who won awards such as Distributor of the Year, Small Publisher of the Year, the Special Appreciation Award, Book of the Year, Bible of the Year and many others. There was a warm and relaxed atmosphere as we shared this rare opportunity to celebrate these achievements together.
The trade exhibition once again took over two of the site’s large halls. Over 80 publishers and suppliers spoilt us all with sweets, freebies and helpful information, and offered retailers the chance to scope out new releases or gift items for their shops. It was another opportunity for gathering new contacts and sharing ideas.
Book signings were again a popular element at the event, with everyone having the opportunity to get books signed by the likes of Emily Owen, Wendy Alec, Jen Baker, Andy Croft, J.John and Paul Kerensa among others; the lengthy queues a testament to their popularity and talent.
It was really special to have such fantastic speakers as Catherine Campbell, J.John and Wendy Alec. Each of them offered a message or a thought about the future. An excellent communicator and full of brilliant witticisms, Catherine shared the importance of hope in Christ, especially in times of trial.
J.John had us all enthralled as he delivered his message with his trademark whimsy and eccentricity. He talked about facing the future by first making sure that we look after ourselves, as well as making sure we prioritise time for God.
Wendy also shared how we can look with hope to the future, even with the world in chaos. She reminded us that we must place our focus on Jesus, and remember that our names are written in the Book of Life. We must know that He cares deeply for us and keeps us in His hands.
Fantastic worship was led by Ben Dunnett along with Jon Adams on bass, Dave Lock on drums, Lawrie Stenhouse on guitar and Mal Corden on the sax. They selected songs which were widely-recognised and popular, so we were all able to engage in worship passionately together.
One thing I really like about the CRT retreat is how much it offers all of us. There are opportunities for learning and networking, Christian worship and feeding, and time; time away from the day-to-day routine of life, time to explore new ideas, and time to reflect on our ministries and our personal faith. You can choose how much you want to get out of the event, whether you plan to get to every workshop and seminar and every stall in the exhibition, or you want to take some time out to sit in the lounge with a coffee or spend time with God in the prayer room. It really is a special event, and a priority in my diary. I believe that by continuing to work together and put God’s purpose and will at the centre of our lives and ministries, we can certainly hope for a fruitful future.